La sfoglia con 40 tuorli – 40 yolk pasta dough (Piedmontese cooking)

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When making fresh egg pasta, the most common ratio is 1 egg for every 100 g flour. However,  the sfoglia (that is the name of the pasta dough in Italian) can be  as rich/lean as the cook wants. I was recently reminded of this whilst browsing a little book about traditional Piedmontese cooking , Ricette di Osterie di Langa,  published by Slowfood few years ago.
I had been eying this recipe for many years but I had never tried it – big mistake, it is delicious! This is an extremely rich pasta dough: 40 yolks for every kg of flour. This sfoglia has actually gained a mythical status in Italian gastronomy because it was made popular by the Piedmontese Osteria del Boccondivino, in Bra, in the Langhe region, where Slowfood was born. To this day, Il Boccondivino remains one of the icons of the whole Slowfood movement: a restaurant offering food that is uncompromisingly rooted in its surroundings, geographically and culturally.

Ideally this sfoglia should be turned into tajarin, angel hair ribbons. I rolled and cut the pasta dough  by hand, using a very long mattarello (rolling pin) and a large chef knife. I am pretty happy with my hand-rolled sfoglia: thin enough and deliciously rough in texture, but my knife skills (in cutting pasta) are less than perfect (to be polite…):  I ended up making small tagliatelle rather than super thin tajarin: – excellent nonetheless.
This pasta is made in the usual way, it might take a little longer to fully hydrate the flour with the yolks. Instead of trying to incorporate the yolks in one go, I adopted a tip I learned from bread making: I let the flour and barely incorporated yolks rest for 15 minutes, well covered (like the autholyse step in bread making). After this, it was much easier to work the loth into a smooth dough.
Follow your method for making pasta, however if you want to up your game, I suggest:

you read the pages Marcella Hazan dedicated to this topic in her book Marcella Cucina: I have never come across a better description (and not, it is not the same as what she says in Essentials, it is much more detailed);

check on You Tube the videos featuring legendary Bolognese pasta makers sorelle Simili:  (Simili sisters) even if you do not understand Italian,  you will gain a lot just by watching; they worked with Hazan for many years on all her books. This is also very useful: check the movements of the hands (after reading Hazan);

you can  mix the dough either  by hand or in a food processor or in a mixer: I have never noticed any difference. Even uber-traditionalist Marcella Hazan, by the time her last cookery book was published (Marcella says), confessed that she was mixing dough by machine. Just make sure to finish it by hand;

Before cutting,  the dough must be fairly dry: this dry!

The road to perfect sfoglia is paved with many less than perfect specimens, all delicious nevertheless.

I ate my 40 yolk pasta with a sugo di funghi trifolati: a simple mushroom sauce, of mixed mushrooms saluted in olive oil, garlic and parsley.

 

 

 

14 thoughts on “La sfoglia con 40 tuorli – 40 yolk pasta dough (Piedmontese cooking)

    1. Frank, do try yolk only pasta, it is really amazing… basically one does not need to stick to a ratio: start with 4 or 5 yolks (for 2-3 portions) and add flour slowyly: “… quante ne prendono i tuorli..” 🙂

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  1. 40 yolks sounds impressive, but 4 yolks per 100 grams is perhaps a bit more clear. I have done pasta dough with additional yolks in the past, but I don’t think I’ve ever done it with yolks only. I don’t have the patience to roll it out with a mattarello 😉

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    1. ciao stefan: this yolk only dough is a pleasure to work with, very smooth and easy to stretch. I cannot deny that to be able to roll pasta by hand is a skill that require some time to develop (like bread shaping, for instance) but I think it is worth the effort, especially for tagliatelle and similar: the texture is better, no doubt. If I am making pasta for 2 to 4 people I find it easier and quicker to hand stretch the dough, rather than to use the machine actually. For stuffed pasta is a different matter: my sfoglia in not thin enough. As an Italian cook interested in traditional cooking I really feel my duty to acquire this basic skill: it somehow connects me with the countless generations of home cooks that came before me and this gives me a strong sense of belonging, which I find very comforting. U seem a curious and dedicated cook: do give it a try (as I said the description in the Hazan’s book is really helpful). There is also a school in Bologna where they teach u how to make the perfect sfoglia (.. I am tempted myself) 🙂 s

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  2. I have read of this sfoglia and will definitely make it, although I will most likely make a quarter recipe! My Piemontese neighborhood restaurant serves a squid ink tajarin that is fantastic. I wonder how he cuts his…

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    1. ciao Jo. that trick seems to do the trick with many doughs and batters: they become easier to work with. buon anno anche a te and lots of good happy cooking. stefano

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    1. Hi Linda….now that I think of it…there is also a very old alistair little’s pasta dough that strikes almost the same cords.. it is a beautiful dough to work with and even better then to eat

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